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Interview: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and the Crew Talk 10 Cloverfield Lane

The uncharted possibilities that we longingly desire to explore are often the intriguing motivating factors that encourage us to relentlessly investigate the protected elements that society is determinedly keeping hidden from us. While opposing forces rigorously work to keep those situations a secret, for the sake of our purported well-being, it isn’t until the truth is finally revealed that we feel justice and closure to our natural curiosity. The new mystery thriller, ’10 Cloverfield Lane,’ presents its diverse main characters with fierce obstacles to overcome, as they ponder the fates of their existence during a time of dire unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances. The movie, which will be released in theaters tomorrow, also gripping leaves audiences questioning who it strong-willed characters are, and how their circumstances connect with the hit monster horror film, ‘Cloverfield.’

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ follows a young woman, Michelle (Winstead), as she wakes up in an underground cellar after she survives a car accident. She fears she has been abducted by a survivalist, Howard (Goodman), who tells her he saved her life, and that a worldwide chemical attack has left Earth’s surface uninhabitable. Uncertain what to believe, she decides to express her concerns with Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), the other survivor who Howard is seemingly holding captive in the bunker he has built that he claims will keep them all alive for at least a year. Unsure of what to believe, Michelle and Emmet decide they must at least try to escape from their captor, no matter what dangers they may face outside.

Acclaimed filmmaker J.J. Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot Productions, and studio Paramount Pictures, which distributed the original ‘Cloverfield’ in 2008 to massive success, have confirmed that ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a spiritual sequel to its predecessor. Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard, the helmer and writer of ‘Cloverfield,’ returned to produce the follow-up with Abrams, allowing first-time feature film director Dan Trachtenberg to take over the helm. Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle also took over the scribing duties for the new thriller, whose final official name was revealed this past January 15, when its initial trailer was attached to screenings of the war drama, ’13 Hours.’

Fans of the original film were equally surprised and happy at the announcement, as they have longed to see a follow-up. But they’re still trying to decipher the connections between Michelle, Emmett and Howard, and how much of the theories presented by the latter survivalist are true, especially since the only hints that have officially been released were those seen in the trailer. Audiences are also still reeling in the fact that the cast and crew have been able to maintain the secrecy behind the new mystery thriller’s connection to ‘Cloverfield’ since they filmed on location in Louisiana in fall 2014, during which time the film was referred to as ‘The Cellar.’

Winstead, Goodman, Trachtenberg, Campbell and Stuecken all generously took the time recently to participate in a press conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City to talk about starring in, directing and writing ’10 Cloverfield Lane.’ The actors, director and screenwriters not only discussed the process of crafting a story about characters who are trying to not only determine if they’re actually living through a worldwide chemical attack, but also how they can survive living with each other. The performers and crew also explained the benefits of maintaining such secrecy around the characters and story of such an anticipated film.

The genesis for the story that’s told ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ “actually started when I just had an opening scene in my head,” Stuecken revealed as he started the conversation about the film during the press conference. “Josh and I were working separately at that point, and I pitched him the idea of that opening scene.” Campbell liked his fellow writer’s idea so much that they decided to collaborate for the first time on the thriller’s screenplay. “Less than two months after we started writing the script, Bad Robot and Paramount decided to acquire it,” Stuecken proudly revealed. “We were so excited, because you can’t do any better than Bad Robot.”

After the production company and film studio acquired Stuecken and Campbell’s screenplay, Trachtenberg signed onto take the helm of ‘Cloverfield’s spiritual sequel. The filmmaker admitted that making the transition from being a reporter to a first-time feature film director on the anticipated thriller was both exciting and terrifying.

“Making a movie was something that I’ve wanted to do since I was three-years-old,” Trachtenberg also revealed. “Growing up, I loved movies that really moved me physically. I loved when my hear would race and my palms would sweat. So to make something that was this exciting, and to really try to move people to the edge of their seats, was an absolute thrill.”

When the actors were asked what their experience of working with Trachtenberg as a first-time feature film director on ’10 Cloverfield Lane,’ Goodman admitted that “It takes a few days to get used to anybody who you’re working with. I’m always nervous when I start working on a new film.” When it came to working with the director on the thriller, the Golden Globe-winning performer revealed that “I didn’t know that he was a first-time director, and I wouldn’t have guessed it. He was very confident in what he wanted, and he was very helpful in his direction.”

“I would agree,” Winstead noted of Goodman’s assessment of Trachenberg. “I don’t think there was ever a moment when I saw Dan being nervous or worried. He was so confident and relaxed.” The actress also noted that it was important for her to meet with the director so that they can talk about her execution of Michelle, as she feels how a female character is presented in a horror film is important. “I could tell Dan was looking at telling the story from inside of Michelle’s shoes, instead of watching her from the outside. To me, that made all the difference. It gave me total confidence in how he was going to handle the film and the character’s perspective,” Winstead added.

Goodman also discussed the process of starring in such an action-driven film that only features three characters throughout the majority of the narrative, after starring in movies that have featured notable ensemble casts. The Emmy Award-nominated actor garnered laughs when he noted that the flip side of having a small cast is that “you have to memorize more lines…But John (Gallagher Jr.) and Mary Elizabeth were very patient with me, and I had an excellent director.”

Winstead also discussed her experiences of being part of a trio of actors in ’10 Cloverfield Lane.’ “I think when you’re lucky enough to have the other two people who are with you (on the screen) be John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr., it’s the best thing ever. I got to sit through a master class in acting, just by working with them every day.”

The writers didn’t have many qualms about penning a story that relies entirely on the three main characters. “We thought there was a real market for small, contained thrillers that maybe have really big ideas,” Stuecken admitted. “I think that’s the same thing that J.J. and Paramount saw in it. We sat down to write something that we thought was very makeable. We knew Bad Robot was the perfect home for it, but we didn’t dare to dream that high when we were writing it.”

After Trachtenberg then complimented Winstead, calling her the best special effect that they were able to feature in the thriller. The SAW Award-nominated actress, who appeared flattered by the director’s assessment of her acting skills, admitted that the thing that she loves the most about her character is that “she’s kind of a badass from the beginning. When I’m reading scripts, I generally see a lot of female roles that if they end up being a badass, they have to start off being weak. Something happens to them that makes them find their strength along the way.”

But Winstead liked that Michelle was “smart, strong and capable from the beginning, which I think a lot of women are. So it was cool to see that play out. As soon as she gets (to the bunker), she’s thinking about her next move, and how she’s going to get out of the situation.” The performer also noted that she admired that Michelle “isn’t passive or not trying to figure this thing out. So I was really excited to be able to play someone who’s brain never stops working out throughout the entire film.”

Goodman garnered laughs again when he then stated, “I have to trust that the audience is going to see that my (character’s) inner screw is loose,” while discussing the process of finding the balance between making Howard seem as though he really cares for his new companions, but also isn’t completely in touch with reality. Viewers “are going to see the loose wiring in the guy after awhile.” He approaches the situation “with his own particular point-of-view…He (thinks he’s) always right, which never ends well for anybody…but it’s nice to have someone with you who will stab you with a jagged piece of wood one moment, and then sew you up the next,” the actor added as he motioned to Winstead.

In further discussing the process of developing the backstories of their respective characters, particularly since the filmmakers have been protective of not revealing too much information on the story, Winstead revealed that “It was a very collaborative experience, at least in the development of the backstory of Michelle. There’s a scene in the movie during which she discussed what she has gone through, and the regrets that she had.”

The actress worked on that with Trachtenberg, as “we wanted it to feel very natural to who I am, and what I was bringing to Michelle. So that changed while we were working,” and they discussed where the female lead was coming from. “But I love that the audience never truly knows her story…the audience can come to their own conclusions about who she is. You base your judgments about her on her actions in the film, and how resilient, resourceful and clever she is,” Winstead added.

Goodman also divulged his process of how he developed Howard, stating that he “would invent stuff day-to-day…what we did was really play, because it could have gotten intense very quickly on the set. But it was actually very loose and fun.”

When then asked about the reasoning behind keeping the thriller’s story a secret, Trachtenberg noted that it “was very much J.J.’s thing.” The director explained that the idea was not to give too much information about the characters and plot away before the movie’s officially released, since the story’s “full of secrets. I think people can engage in the movie the way that’s meant to be interacted with. I also think it’s exciting to go back to a time when we only found out about a movie through its trailer…To have the movie come out two months after the trailer was released is so exciting, and very necessary for a movie like this.”

Campbell also chimed in on the reasoning behind not revealing too much information about the plot behind ’10 Clovefield Lane.’ “We wrote an original screenplay, and ‘Cloverfield’ wasn’t in our minds when we wrote it,” the scribe explained. “During the development process, the idea came up that (this film) could be in the Clover-verse. Honestly, when we first started thinking about it, we were a bit surprised. But now that you think about, and as people start to see the movie, it will make a lot of sense, in terms of the tone and twists, as well as the thriller aspect,” the writer said, before adding that “we got really excited, because we knew it was the right choice to make.”

The script “was different from anything else I had ever read before, and that was the first thing that hit me,” Goodman revealed when he was asked what he thought of the thriller’s script when he first read it. “It was interesting, and a page-turner, which is always a good sign. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next,” the actor revealed.

Winstead divulged that she “didn’t expect the turns to happen whatsoever. I certainly didn’t know where (the story) was going. Selfishly, as an actor, I wanted to play that and go on that ride. It seemed like I would be able to do a lot of fun stuff.”

The performer also explained that she thought the story was really refreshing, in terms of the horror genre. Winstead, who has appeared in several genre films throughout her career, admitted that she loves scaring audiences, but the experience of filming ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ wasn’t entirely frightening. The shoot was “actually quite pleasant, so it’s kind of odd that the movie came out in a way that’s so terrifying to people…But that’s ultimately what we want, and what we were trying to accomplish,” she laughed as she admitted.

Trachtenberg added that he has also been influenced by the horror genre as a filmmaker, particularly when he decided to delve into the ‘Cloverfield’ universe to make his feature debut. “I was inspired a lot by ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ I’m also a big Hitchcock fan, and ‘Notorious’ is one of my favorite movies,” Trachtenberg explained. He also noted that he was also influenced by such movies as ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ as “they’re also self-contained, but feel really big.”

Campbell also revealed that he felt it was important to “play with genre expectations. I think that when people see a trailer nowadays, they immediately know what a movie is about. Audiences these days are really savvy towards their entertainment. So we did our best to zag away from what people expected from us as much as possible, in terms of the plot and characters. So we pulled from a lot of different influences, because we didn’t want to go down the same road that other people have previously done.”

Trachtenberg reflectively looked at the thriller’s overall themes as he added that the story “certainly poses the question to all of us of, what would you do? I think we all hope that we would react in the way that Michelle reacts. I think she feels authentic, but she also has a little more resourcefulness than we may actually have.”

The helmer added that “I think the idea that she immediately launches into survival mode is really something that I really relate to whenever something happens, even if it’s just bad news….I never really wallow in fear for too long, and I think that’s exciting to see in a protagonist.”

When then asked if he sees a potential to make a direct sequel to ’10 Cloverfield Lane,’ Trachtenberg admitted that “that’s definitely a question for J.J. I think J.J. sees this as a platform to tell really unique stories, as this one was. But the cool thing about this movie is that it feels like there could be a sequel, and it would be awesome to make a direct sequel to this movie.”

But the filmmaker divulged that he also thinks it would be “badass if this film was its own thing, and the character goes through the journey that she goes through, and that was it. It would be cool to leave to your imagination what she could tackle next.” But he insisted that “it would be awesome if we got to make another movie!”

Check out Shockya’s exclusive photos from the ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ New York press conference below.

loverfield Press Conference 1

(L-R) ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ writers, Matthew Stuecken and Josh Campbell; actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead; actor John Goodman; and director Dan Trachtenberg.

Cloverfield Press Conference 2

(L-R) ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ writer Josh Campbell, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead and actor John Goodman.

Cloverfield Press Conference 3

(L-R) ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, actor John Goodman and director Dan Trachtenberg.

Written by: Karen Benardello

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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